Liza Atienza still remembers learning her English ABCs back home in the Philippines as a child during her kindergarten years. This initial knowledge coupled with her interest in New Zealand sparked her to move her family to the Bay eight years ago. The mother-of-three has lived in New Zealand since 2005 when she was offered a job as a nurse in Mount Maunganui. "In the Philippines most of the people want to migrate, and we wanted our children to have a good future, there is so much politics there.'' Mrs Atienza said she initially wanted to live in the US, as one of her sisters lives there, but after entering a contest to win a holiday to bungy jump in the South Island she did some research on New Zealand and decided to come here instead. Trained as a registered nurse back in the Philippines, Mrs Atienza said the biggest difference in her job here was "total care'' where the families of patients back home would do things such as bathing and feeding. "We would only do the medical side of things, I was quite surprised nurses do all roles (here).'' She also noted a difference in living situations. "There is a big difference between the poor here, the Government looks after people with benefits, they can still eat. "The Philippines is a third world country.'' Filipinos are also creatures of the night with shopping malls and public transport running late into the evening or even 24 hours, she said. Christmas was a big event back home with Filipinos putting up their Christmas decorations as early as September, she said. "I'm old enough now to realise it is for business but when I was a kid we had our Christmas decorations up then as well.'' Mrs Atienza and her family still like to enjoy the flavours from back home, as Kiwi tucker was a bit "bland'', and eat rice two to three times a day, although her husband Henry does the majority of the cooking. A Filipino favourite the family eats here was chicken adobo, which involves marinating meat in soy sauce and garlic, she said. With one sibling in the US, one in Canada and one in the Philippines, Mrs Atienza said she had only seen her family all together once since she moved and that was two years ago in the Philippines. "How I wish I could go back every year but it is quite expensive and I don't want to go with just myself,'' she said. The Filipino community in Tauranga was still growing with about 1000 migrants in the Bay, said Mrs Atienza. They get together with other Filipino nationals from around New Zealand every year for a basketball competition. The competition is being held over Labour weekend in Tauranga next year.
Fast facts about the Philippines Population: 84,765,000 Capital: Manila; 10,677,000 Area: 300,000 sq km Language: Filipino (based on Tagalog), English and eight major dialects Religion: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist Currency: Philippine peso Life expectancy: 70 years GDP per capita: US$4600 ($5544) Literacy: 96 per cent Information provided by National Geographic.